It has been characterised as a moment of madness, and at a superficial level Eden Hazard's attack on a ball boy during Chelsea's match at Swansea could be seen as an uncharacteristic, irresponsible, indefensible and brief loss of control.
In other ways, however, the incident, and the reaction to it, were perfect expressions of some of the worst aspects of modern life. But first we need to clear up some confusing nomenclature. Ball boy? I don't think so.
Charlie Morgan is old enough to go on our behalf to Afghanistan and kill Taliban fighters (or, rather, to take them out of the game), so it's unhelpful to refer to him using a term that conjures up an image of a starry-eyed 12-year-old getting a privileged view of his heroes and earning a few bob in the process.
Morgan was no fresh-faced ingenu: less "ball boy" than "touchline assistant". He had already styled himself on Twitter as "the king of all ball boys", and suggested that he was ready to employ the time wasting skills to which Hazard took such exception.
Morgan was seeking to gain an advantage by not returning the ball in prompt fashion to the Chelsea player, and while it did not contravene the rules of the game, it certainly was against its spirit. But who could blame him? What sort of example is he set by those in public life? The tax-dodging celebrities and businessmen who find ways round the laws to avoid paying their full whack to the Revenue? The expense-fiddling politicians who bent the rules for years and stole from the public purse? The greedy bankers who were propped up by our money and rewarded themselves with massive bonuses?
No wonder Charlie Morgan thought it was perfectly within his rights to seek a tiny advantage by behaving in an underhand manner.
And what about Hazard? He simply illustrates how today's footballers are completely out of touch with reality. These obscenely wealthy young men are indulged and pampered every minute of the day. Little wonder they feel they're above the law.
Hazard's action spoke clearly of this lack of respect, and was a direct consequence of the widespread feeling among the very rich and famous that they can basically get away with anything. This is most usually manifest in the way some footballers treat vulnerable, or impressionable, young women.
I can't help feeling, however, that almost the most depressing aspect of this story is its aftermath, which followed an all-too-predictable narrative arc: confected outrage, demands for police action, hysteria on the social networks, PR-managed expressions of contrition followed by investigations into Charlie Morgan's background (his father is a wealthy hotel owner, by the way), and, no doubt, invitations for him to appear on Celebrity Big Brother.
Amid all the hue and cry, it was difficult to discern a sense of proportion, because the intellectual temperature of the nation appears to be set these days by Twitter. So I was grateful for the contribution of the former Chelsea player Pat Nevin on Radio 4's "Today" programme. He simply refused to take this incident seriously. Of course Hazard shouldn't have kicked out at Charlie Morgan. But best not to let a moment of madness become a case study in modern insanity.
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